Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Itinerary for Northern Laos

Posted by amberriot on 1/9/2011 at 21:02

Hi there,

My husband and I are English teachers in Southern Thailand and we have most of October off. I'm looking for suggestions/validation about the leg of our trip in Laos. Any insight would be excellent. I feel like I've been on travelfish for 2 weeks straight trying to make sure we don't miss anything.

We will enter Laos from Thailand and start in Vientiane. I've heard from co-workers that it's eh, so we will spend one night here (we arrive very early in the morning, so we should have enough time to explore).

Then 1 night in Vang Vieng to check out the tubing if it doesn't look totally like a frat part.

Next, on to Luang Prabang , arriving on October 6. This is where it gets tricky. We have booked an overnight trip with Tiger Trails for October 10 (only free date they have) and we plan to leave Laos via the slow boat to Thailand on October 14. I would like to check out Nong Khiaw, but I'm not sure how many nights we should stay (1 or 2).

As of right now, here is what I have for Luang Prabang area:
1 night in Luang Prabang (not sure what time we'll get in from leaving Vang Vieng)
Head up to Nong Khiaw for 2 nights
1 night back in Luang Prabang so Tiger Trails can pick us up in the morning
1 night on Tiger Trail trip
3 nights in Luang Prabang (we want to see the Festival of Lights)

Does this seem like a ridiculous amount of back and forth? Is Nong Khiaw worth going to for 2 nights? It's also a bit annoying that we'd have to try and make 3 separate reservations at places.

Any feedback would be great!

#1 amberriot has been a member since 31/8/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by Captain_Bob on 2/9/2011 at 14:15

I would give Vientiane more than one quick day and overnight. I would also allow more for Vang Vieng. Sure the tubing bar scene is a frat party but there's much more to enjoy in the area. Bicycle or motorbike to explore the valleys, go kayaking or swim into caves, beautiful scenery all around.

The rest looks fine. Go from LP up to Nong Khiaw for a couple days then get a 1-day boat down the Nam Ou to the Mekong then another back to LP. Daily 1-hour flight LP-Chiang Mai for about $150, or if you have time work your way up to Luang Namtha and Muang Sing (especially if you're interested in ethnic minorities)

#2 Captain_Bob has been a member since 27/5/2006. Location: Thailand. Posts: 1,947

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Posted by Rufus on 4/9/2011 at 14:51

Your co workers appear to be somewhat ignorant. This happens when people don't really know a place. Vientiane has a lot going for it - temples, excellent food, French colonial architecture and good shopping are just some of these. It is worth at least 2 days.

I don't understand the phrase "frat part". However VV has some very scenic countryside and is worth a stop. I would not bother with Nong Khiaw, but would consider a trip from LP to the Plain of Jars. To save time consider flying back to Vte from LP instead of taking the slow boat.

#3 Rufus has been a member since 22/4/2007. Location: Laos. Posts: 978
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Posted by exacto on 4/9/2011 at 23:20

It comes down to personal choice, but I agree with Bob-O and Rufus that Vientiane is worth a longer look if you have the time. I've been at least six times over the years, and each time the city seems even more charming. There are a couple of great temples down along the river, including the original Wat Phra Keow, that are worth a look, and from there you can stroll up river past fruit vendors and waterside restaurants. There is a good museum, cultural shows, bakeries, and interesting colonial buildings to look at. That Luang is amazing, as is spending an early evening at Anusauri, the Ard d'Triumph-looking monument on the way to That Luang. There are other things to do too. Those are just some of my favorites.

Frat part = fraternity party, those all-out drunken bashes represented in classic American films like "Animal House." You'll find that in Vang Vieng if you wish. But like the others have said, there is also the scenic countryside and some good outdoor activity options if you wish.

Most of us would suggest having a rough itinerary of where you want to go and then playing it by ear on the road. For example, just because your friends suggested giving Vientiane a miss, you might decide you love it and want to spend a few days. Or you might decide that you just can't face the bus ride on a particular day and hang out a while longer.

Your trip sounds really fun to me. Have a great time. Cheers.

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Posted by Rufus on 5/9/2011 at 08:02

"Frat part = fraternity party."
Thanks Exacto, I had no idea

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Posted by eastwest on 5/9/2011 at 11:08

My two cents about Vientiane:

I've been there 3 times over the past 10 years or so and it never impressed me. It certainly has some things to keep you busy and only one Wat that stood out (the one with all the small buddhas in the walls). The rest I found forgettable. The Arc was a nice curiosity but nothing more than that to me. Neither has the riverside or the much fabled food convinced me to spend more time. It's a pleasant enough town though and must be one of the most laid back capitals in the world.

But as Exacto has said, it's personal. Would I trade a day in LP for a day in Vientiane? No. In general I'd say that for the average tourist who comes only once it doesn't have much appeal and your time is better spent in LP.

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Posted by amberriot on 5/9/2011 at 12:09

Thank you all for your suggestions!
Sorry I missed the 'y' in party, so thanks for clearing that up.

I would like to keep our itinerary pretty open so we are able to stay longer in a place if we love it, but I'm worried about not getting a reservation in Luang Prabang from the 11-14 because of the Festival of Lights. Do you think we'll have a problem finding a decent room? I guess we can always wait and see if we want to go to Nong Khiaw for a night or 2. We love the outdoors, so it might be a good place for us.

Thank you all again!

#7 amberriot has been a member since 31/8/2011. Posts: 3

Posted by travellingsarah on 5/9/2011 at 12:42 TF writer

Posted from within Vietnam.

Nong Khiaw is great, in my opinion, but if you book for LP for during the festival that still gives you flexibility to decide on extra days in Vientiene (I'm more with eastwest on this) or VV and to skip Nong Khiaw nearer the time doesn't it? I'd go with that option.

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Posted by Nokka on 5/9/2011 at 15:20

I stayed 1 night in Vang Vieng which, to be honest, was pointless. By the time you get there its a bit late to do the tubing and next day you'll be away again before you can do it. (there again I travelled down from LP which is a longer stretch). I didn't much care for the place in the short time I was there, but I didn't really have the time to appreciate its delights properly.

Personally I'd either stay on the bus all the way to LP or have 2 nights in VV. If you have 2 nights there, have 1 only in Vientiane; if you skip VV have 2. Definitely go to Nong Khiaw - its a beautiful place and merits 2 nights to get out into the surrounding countryside for a day. We did a day trek there with Tiger Trails, which was just us and a guide. Definitely a highlight of many Laos highlights.

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Posted by amberriot on 5/9/2011 at 16:24

Thanks! The more I read about Vientiane , the more I think we'll just do the one night. It doesn't really sound like our kind of place. We'd rather check out Nong Khiaw for a couple of nights as that is more in line with our interests. We live in Thailand, so we don't need to stay in a town to see more temples. We want to get out of being in a city, so I think Nong Khiaw will be nice. We want to do some hiking and maybe kayaking. Also, we'll be coming from Siem Reap and moving on to Chiang Mai and I think we'll be templed out by the end of the trip.

I would love to check out the Plain of Jars, but I don't think we'll have time. You pretty much have to overnight there, right? We can't afford to fly back as we're on a Thai salary.

However, if we do Nong Khiaw for 2 nights, we can only do Vang Vieng for 1 night. We hope to catch the first bus out of Vientiane in the morning, so hopefully we can make it to Vang Vieng by early afternoon to still be able to check it out. If not, we can always come back.

Thank you all for your suggestions and feedback! We'll definitely try to keep our trip open.

#10 amberriot has been a member since 31/8/2011. Posts: 3

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